Haunted Kalamazoo: The Mysterious Morris Murders of Decatur
One of the creepiest and most mysterious of tales from the area are the murders of husband and wife Charles Henry Morris and Esther Jones Morris of Decatur, MI in 1879. We recently celebrated the 140th anniversary of the murders. According to Wiki, this is how the events of the night played out:
On the night of September 28, 1879, in an desolate farmhouse along an isolated country road in Decatur Michigan, Mr. and Mrs. Morris retired to bed at about 8:30. The only other individual in the house at the time was a woman who worked for them by the name of Jennie Bull. At around 9 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Morris were inexplicably shot dead within minutes of one another and were left where they fell. Nothing was taken save for a horse, used for the purposes of escape by the assailant.
Shortly after sunrise, Jennie Bull informed a farmhand employed by the Morrises (upon his arrival) that she had found both Mr. and Mrs. Morris shot to death. Charles Morris was found lying on the front porch and Esther Morris was found lying in the bedroom. A lot of stories circulated in the months afterward. The most prominent ones were about Jennie Bull (housekeeper) and Riley Huntley (handyman). The murder was shocking to the small frontier community and was immediately prioritized by the local police (as well as every other person in the area). Shortly thereafter, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was brought in, but did not solve the crime.
The story that made its way around was that on the night of September 28, Morris must have gotten out of bed because someone was at his back porch. That is where he was shot dead. Then Mrs. Morris, who must have seen the murderer entering the house (after hearing the gunshot), curiously dropped the revolver she was carrying and ran to hide in the bedroom closet. That is where she was shot dead. No money was taken. No jewels were taken regardless of the fact that the Morrises' jewels and money were found in the house and "easily visible." The killer then rode away, into the night, stealing one of Morrises' best horses and was seen by neighbor Charles Rosewarne. The murderer galloped right past him, between 9:30 and 10:00 PM, and Rosewarne told everyone about the strange rider and in particular that "He wore a funny hat." That same horse was found in South Bend, Indiana, a few days later. The horse was worn-out, exhausted, and with a "strange fresh branding on it left rear flank." It was later revealed that Mrs. Morris were pregnant at the time of her murder.
A local man by the name of Floyd Smith was accused by the Morris' handyman. On the night of December 17, 1879, Floyd Smith was taken into custody, but before he could be placed in jail, the police were ambushed and Floyd was taken into the woods near Decatur, strung up, tortured for hours, and told to confess. He did not confess. Floyd Smith's life was ruined and he moved away. The incident caused life-long damage, including the passing of his wife shortly after. Floyd only ever said he knew nothing of the Morris murder. On his death-bed, he stated the same. Nobody will ever know just what happened that night. The house they once lived in burned down, and a cemetery was placed nearby it's original foundation. The cemetery where they are buried is located on 36th Street between 92nd & 96th Avenues on the west side of Swift Lake.